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Frank Jutton and Flash Steam, cont.

Flash steam was never far away, and when Frank returned to tethered hydro’s it was with another of the ‘fearsome beasts’. Very little is recorded about the performance or details of any of Frank’s boats from then on as they coincided with a period when there were no reports or technical articles in any of the model or boating publications. What information there is has been gleaned from contemporary photographs, personal memories of other competitors and a lot of trawling through archive material.

On his return, Frank moved to the St Albans club and would run under their banner for some while before joining the Kingfisher Club at Old Ford. From the registration numbers and names has been possible to identify at least four distinct boats over the next two decades, but there may well have been two more, or variations on a theme.

With the exception of the very last ‘A’ Class boat, all the others shared similar design principles and layout.

The first and best known is ‘TNT’. This ‘B’ Class boat used the same semi-circular hull form as the earlier ‘Vesta III’ but now with the motor in the stern and the venturi boiler in the front. It is believed that ‘TNT’ was so named due to the ‘popping’ of the vaporised fuel in the boiler casing. The most obvious feature and the one that would make both Frank’s and Jim Bamford’s boats so effective was the propshaft being extended out of the transom on an outrigger system, similar to the Arneson drive later used on virtually every offshore powerboat to the present day. With the two aluminium planes at the bow and the surface prop way behind the boat, there was almost nothing touching the water other than the tip of one prop blade.

The ‘B’ Class had a very restrictive weight limit of 8lbs, yet at Woburn on 29th October 1972, Frank and ‘TNT’ would produce a run of 69.58mph, which took the outright steam record as well as the class record. The level of Frank’s achievement can be measured by the fact that the outright record would last until 1980 when Bob Kirtley broke it for the first of many times with a much bigger and newer ‘A’ Class boat. The ‘B’ Class record however, remained intact until 1991 when Olly Monk and his state of the art ‘Floyd II added another 10mph.

Frank with TNT and lots of flames launching at South Cerney, and assisted by John and Rik Benson at Victoria Park

Jim Bamford worked at the National Gas Turbine Research Establishment and both he and Frank spent a lot of time and effort on the flame tube and burner at the front of the boiler. Frank’s X1 was an ‘A’ Class boat in the same general style as ‘TNT’ but with a very long flame tube that extended just beyond the bow of the boat. There is a reference to Frank winning the ‘A’ Class at Blackheath in 1973 where there were three flash steamers present.

In 1976 Frank won the Crebbin Cup again, just on thirty years after winning it for the first time.

This boat is something of a mystery at present. It comes from late in Frank's career and uses the same plant as seen in X1 and the 'A' Class boat below. The hull seems to follow the TNT design and shows clearly how little prop is needed to make a boat run quickly.

The next boat that there is a record of came during Frank’s second association with the Kingfisher Club, and is again believed to be an ‘A’ Class. The hull is now more rectangular, both in cross section and plan, still with the extended drive and two aluminium planing surfaces.
 

The motor is mounted nearer to the centre of the boat with the fuel tank inside the hull, rather than attached to the outside of the transom. The boiler is set well to the front of the hull and has a flame tube, which is extended even further so that it is now well in front of the bow. The question remains as to which 'A' Class hull came first, the rectangular one above or the semi circular one?

Sadly, Frank’s great friend and fellow flash steam experimenter, Jim Bamford died in 1984, so Frank was now competing against the new intake of steam exponents, led by Bob Kirtley and Ian Berne with their fresh thinking on hulls and steam plants. TNT was still unchallenged in the lighter ‘B’ Class, winning the Grand Regatta in 1985, but in the ‘A’ Class at the St Albans meeting Frank would finish second three years running.

Something more up to date was required to achieve the speeds that Bob and Ian were reaching.

Left: Frank at South Cerney in 1984 with TNT

For the 1990 season, Frank appeared with new ‘A’ Class boat. This was entirely new in almost every respect, adopting all the latest design features being proved by Bob Kirtley and Ian Berne. The hull was a conventional three point outrigger hydro with the motor in the bow, driving a normal skeg mounted prop. The venturi boiler and single parallel flame tube was retained for a while but later abandoned in favour of a cylindrical boiler casing with three venturi flame tubes and three spider mounted primus nipples.

This design combination would ultimately prove capable of being developed to exceed 120mph, but after running the boat at a few regattas, Frank decided to retire from the sport.

Frank, assisted by Ian Berne, launching his last 'A' Class boat in 1990

To be actively involved in tethered hydroplane racing for over fifty years is an achievement in itself, but to have spent the bulk of the time with flash steam shows an incredible level of determination and dedication. Frank Jutton’s name sits alongside the other great exponents of flash steam in the modern era and it has been a pleasure to put together this appreciation of his work and achievement.

As related in an earlier article, 'TNT' was given to Olly Monk and now resides with him. Frank's last 'A' Class boat is now in the possession of Jim Bamford's son Rob and the hope is that it will be restored to running condition at some stage.

Our sincere thanks go to Frank and Mary Jutton and Loraine Batterbury for all the material they have supplied for these articles. To Tony Pilliner, Rob Bamford, Bob Kirtley, Jim Free, Terry Everitt and Olly Monk for photographs and information, and to Peter Hill for original photos from St Albans and providing regatta and trophy results.

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